Conservatives should tackle Defense Department's waste

The fiscal conservatives and limited government advocates who will be controlling Congress next month and President-elect Donald Trump, who was elected in part because of his business experience, have their first challenge as they take up the reins of power. Those who want to shrink the size of government, control wasteful spending and save taxpayer dollars have a clear target and plan: $125 billion in administrative waste in the Defense Department’s business operations.

That figure comes from a report commissioned in the summer of 2014 by the Pentagon and conducted by the Defense Business Board, which is a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. The report, according to a Washington Post investigation, "revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management."

Furthermore, according to the Post, the report "identified 'a clear path' for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years." Savings could be achieved without laying off civil servants or reducing military personnel. "Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology."

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It seemed like a straightforward, business-savvy approach to cutting waste from the most bloated federal budget. Instead, the Pentagon -- spooked that the findings could “be used as a weapon” against it -- tried to simultaneously bury and discredit the report. The Defense Department imposed what the Post called "secrecy restrictions" on the data, canceled briefings by the study consultants with military officers, and pulled a 77-page summary from its website. As word of the report spread, however, senior Defense Department officials downplayed and dismissed it, calling it "unrealistic," "shallow" and a "made-up number."

Read The Washington Post's investigation here:

This seems to be a plan ready-made for anyone wanting a hard-nosed, businesslike approach to squeezing inefficiency out of the federal budget and downsizing government. First, let’s make the report publicly and easily available. Then, as the new president and congressional leaders begin to set plans and priorities, we challenge them to turn their attention first to the waste in the Defense Department.

This story appeared in the Dec 16-29, 2016 print issue under the headline: Conservatives should tackle DOD’s waste .

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